Winter surfing is bliss.
Chilly fingers, wind burnt cheeks, frozen toes, and post surf hot chocolates.
Winter surfing is not for the faint hearted and you have to really want to be there to have a good time and be ready to ensure some potentially dangerous conditions. To make your time in the water even more enjoyable, it bodes well to have the best winter surfing gear.
We’re going to be getting very technical here, only the most advanced equipment will feature in this article so you know you’re getting the best bang for your buck when you’re cold water surfing.
Immersing your body in freezing temperatures is a risk. Most winter surfing takes place in sub 12 degree waters, and the lower the ocean temperature gets, the higher the risk is. But the risks of surfing in winter can be dramatically reduced with the right winter surfing gear. The items reviewed below are our most highly rated winter surfing items on the market.
- Do I need any special gear for winter surfing?
- What surfers wear in the winter
- Can you surf in the winter without a wetsuit?
- How winter surfers stay warm
- How people surf in the cold
- The best gear for winter surfing - a checklist
- Am I ready to go cold water surfing?
Do I need any special gear for winter surfing?
Yes. If you're planning on giving surfing a proper go in the winter it is essential you have the right gear as a minimum. Mindset, planning, and experience will be secondary to this.
What do surfers wear in the winter?
The best surfers go into the water prepared. Every surfer in cold water conditions will be wearing the following into the water:
- 5mm + thickness wetsuit
- 5mm + thickness wetsuit boots
- A neoprene hood
- Neoprene gloves
Extra precautions surfers may take in cold water are, adding in a neoprene hoodie or a thermal undervest to put under the wetsuit.
Surfers will always have garments on land that they use to support their surfing such as towel ponchos and changing robes.
Can you surf in the winter without a wetsuit?
In short, no.
But, it depends where you are, if the water temperature is below 15 degrees approximately and you plan to stay in for more than 15-20 minutes then you are not going to last long without a wetsuit and may be putting yourself at a serious risk of hyperthermia.
Whereas if you're nearer the equator, and the winter where you are has warmer waters for surfing, then thinner neoprene wetsuits may suffice.
How do winter surfers stay warm?
Surfers in the winter take many steps to stay warm.
- Full body athletic warm ups on the beach before entering the water to elevate heart rate, encourage thermal regulation, reduce injury and prepapre the mind
- Putting on dry, (emphasis on the dry) properly prepared, highly technical layers of neoprene in advance before surfing
- Leaving no gaps in the spaces between the different folds of neorepene. (making sure the seams of your wetsuit gloves meet and touch the sleeves of the wetsuit. Same goes for the hood.)
- Making sure your wetsuit boots are tucked inside the legs of your wetsuit so they don’t fill up with water and be, keep you more insulated.
- Make sure the hood is on and fastened before letting the head go underwater
- Having hot drinks before the session and waiting in the car afterwards
- Having a properly prepared and executed plan to exit the water safely. (i.e., easily accessible car keys, a warm place to change and a warm changing robe, fluffy socks and boots to put on ASAP.)
How do people surf in the cold?
It may seem bonkers to some to even think about cold water surfing. But people do do it! Some of the best waves and surfing conditions happen in the winter due to huge storms out at sea and the subsequent swell surges. So it’s no wonder the beaches are littered with neoprene coated bodies in the winter. Surfers brave the cold when the have the right equipment prepared, the best knowledge of the area and conditions they are in and with the right mindset - going into the water knowing it isn’t going to be 100% pleasant!
What is the best gear for winter surfing?
We have chosen eight essential pieces of cold surfing kit to add to your list to make sure your surf sessions are comfortable, safe and sensational all year round. Explore the unchartered waters of the advanced winter surf kit below.
A changing robe is a no brainer. To ensure the exit and entries to your surf are warm, dry and practical this piece of surfing gear is essential. This changing robe is fully insulated with cloudfill quilting making it the wamrest changing robe on the market. There is simply nothing that heats you up quite like the Vivida Puffer changing robe.
Unique in the fact that the quilting actively heats the body up, the recycled fabric wicks away water to keep you dry, it has imbedded deep pockets to keep your hands warm pre and post surf, features a drawstring insulated hood to keep you sheltered from the elements and comes in a staggering range of colours you when you feel like you never want to take it off, you’ll be thermally and fashionable happy with your choice.
The game changer of wetsuit boots. Personalised fit moulds the boots to the exact dimensions of your foot making footwork on your surfboard more intricate. Solites technology have made sure there is nothing out there that will make and keep your feet warmer.
Featuring a heat mouldable thermo foam 3D rubber sole, and plush thermal quick dry interior lining you are massively reducing your chances of having numb toes when surfing in cold water.
They also offer thermal insulation socks to add to the warmth of the boot.
Wetsuit gloves are arguably the second most important aspect of gold water surfing after the actual wetsuit itself. If your hands aren’t functioning due to being cold then making the correct hand shapes for an efficient paddle stroke will become challenging, as will getting out of your wetsuit post surf, not to mention the pain you will be in. Truly cold fingers and hands can be incredibly painful and is best to be avoided at all costs.
These Billabong wetsuit gloves are made of 100% recycled neoprene. The Graphene fibres in the lining of the gloves will increase your thermal retention. They also are brilliant at not letting water in via the wrists and still enable you to paddle properly.
The creme de la creme of cold water surfing gear. If you’re going to surf in cold water you NEED a very high quality cold water wetsuit. There are hundreds on the market and most wetsuits will do a very good job for you, but if you’re on the search for the most impressive thermal insulated wetsuit technology on the market then the ION winter wetsuit range has you covered.
Designed for temperatures as low at 2 degrees and topping out at 7 degrees. This wetsuit is superior for insulation. Born to beat the elements, ION has used Graphene_Plush on the torso and legs portion and the Hot_Stuff 2.0 lining on the shoulders and arms.
All the seams are impenetrable with their Power_Seam technology meaning there’s no chance of flushing or water leaking in.
Designed with a high quality interior thermal liner for optimum warmth, your head won’t be loosing any heat if you’ve suited up with this piece of surf kit. Attachable to any wetsuit, with a tuck-in-able neck piece to ensure seam to seam connection and limit water leaks. An utter essential if your head is planning on going any wear near the sea in the winter.
The best cold water surfing addition to your kit list. Can be worn for swimming or surfing as an inner layer underneath a wetsuit. Inner layers provide more protection from the water making you even more insulated against the cold temperatures. The more layers the better. Get one of these underneath your wetsuit and thank us later. The Orca base layer isn’t too bulky and won’t change the fit of your wetsuit.
The Sherpa All Weather Changing Robe from Vivida is a fantastic option for those on a smaller budget but are still looking to get their hands on high quality pre and post surf changing gear. The sherpa is arguably more efficient at wicking away water initially, than the Puffer changing robe option from Vivida. The sherpa offers a unique reinforced peaked cap hood to shelter your face from the elements as well as giving you a warm and dry place to get changed. Coming in three colourways, Aventurine Green, Mineral Blue and Charcoal Grey you will be so grateful to be cozying up in this full body radiator after your cold water surf session.
Am I ready to go cold water surfing?
Getting your hands on any of these items would improve your surf experience tenfold.
Think how much money you would pay if you were on the edge of freezing whilst surfing to eliminate that frozen feeling? Found a number? Right now take that number to the checkout and get kitted out right.
Being ready for cold water surfing is very much about having the best, most advanced and therefore safets gear with you and near you, but your mindset is very much to do with it too.
If you go in the water, knowing, surefire that you have taken all the best precautions to protect yourself - you are going to have a better surf as your mind will rest easy.
If you go into the water knowing that it’s not going to be as comfortable and delicious as summer surfing then you’re already more ready than you think. Preparing the mind, in turn, prepares the body and puts our central nervous system into a position to prepare for danger. Our adrenaline will heighten and stimulate our metabolism, our heart rate will increase and boost thermal regulation, this amongst a whole plethora of other functions will in turn bullet proof your body and mind so all your need to focus on is paddling into the next wave.
Have a good safe winter surf session, and get prepared and buy the kit!
Indie Bornhoft is a personal trainer and watersports coach, who encourages her clients to make movement their mantra. She has coached every ability in wakeboarding, paddleboarding, SUP fitness, and windsurfing for over ten years, and is highly qualified in all disciplines. Discover more about her drive to just keep moving and be inspired to connect to the raw power of body & spirit through fitness.